Tag Archives: Westland

Belgium Sea King still rules the waves

Forty years old the Westland Sea King Mk 48 flown by the Belgian Air Component of its armed forces is still very much ruling the waves when it comes down to search and rescue operations.

The already delivered four new NH90 helicopters are not managing well, meaning that the dinosaur Sea Kings are somewhat strange still the most reliable rotary wing for whoever gets lost at sea in front of the Belgian coast – where one of the busiest shipping lanes of the world passes through the English Channel and North Sea.

The Ministry of Defence in Brussels confirmed it has a tremendous amount of difficulties in providing the nation with an adequate air rescue at sea. The Grey Cayman, as the Belgians have nicknamed their new navy NH90s, has too many issues during its operations – including a radar that sometimes doesn’t work.

One of three Sea Kings that will have to soldier on in Belgian SAR service 2019 at least. (Image © Marcel Burger)
One of three Sea Kings that will have to soldier on in Belgian SAR service 2019 at least. (Image © Marcel Burger)

Neighbours help out

The Sea Kings – suffering from their age – already have to soldier on till 2019, four years later than planned. NHIndustries/Airbus needs at least one and a half years more to update and repair all four NH90s delivered for navy tasks – taking about 6 months per aircraft at a time. According to a ministry spokesperson Belgium will ask its European neighbours – the Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom – to help out and back up the Sea King. It may still rule the waves, but increased maintenance and lack of spare parts will likely put the Sea King on the ground at times as well, meaning there will be no single dedicated SAR helicopter on Belgian soil available for helping out stranded sea man, unfortunate swimmers and downed pilots.

Crown jewel

Envisaging the coming new kid on the block, Belgium already retired its first Sea King (RS-01) on almost a decade ago, in the 33rd year of its service life. It left the 40 Squadron at homebase Koksijde on 17 December 2008 and has been a crown jewel of the Royal Museum of Army and War History of the nation ever since. Some black pages in its operational history: the crew had to ditch it into the North Sea in April 1981 due to engine problems and in 2005 it was suffering from severe hydraulic problems.

RS-01 was one of five Sea Kings delivered to the Belgian Air Component, sporting a for European waters rather rare ochre yellow and green camo scheme as the machines were originally built by British Westland for the Egyptian armed forces, but that delivery was cancelled in 1975. The Belgian Armed Forces started operations with the Sea King on 1 April 1976. During the years modernisations were implemented to keep the aircraft aloft. They included a protection plate for the engine intake, a FLIR camera and a new all-weather radar.

The camo scheme of the Belgian Sea King is a rare sight in European skies. (Image © Marcel Burger)
The camo scheme of the Belgian Sea King is a rare sight in European skies. (Image © Marcel Burger)

Sixth Sea King

The second Sea King (RS-03) was taken out of service in August 2013, leaving only three machines available. However, even with a sixth Sea King bought in the UK to provide the remaining machines with spare parts, Brussels has said it will be very very complicated to keep the SAR going without the support if its NATO partner nations.

Problems with the NH90 are also bad news for the effectiveness of the Belgian Navy’s frigates. The Navy NH90s were supposed to increase their fighting capabilities, a task never done by the Sea Kings, but the MoD now says the first NH90s are now likely to operate from the combat vessels in 2025 at the earliest.

For those who love the Sea King in its Belgian special colour scheme, there is at least another year or two left to enjoy them above North Sea waves and in European skies.

© 2018 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger

Bye bye Battlefield Lynx

The Westland Battlefield Lynx Mk7 is no more. The British Army Air Corps said goodbye to the type on 31 July 2015, with a flypast of six Mk7 performing the so-called backflip that is typical for the type.

The Lynx has served the UK for 38 years, being part of major military operations and supporting humanitarian missions. In 2018 the newer Lynx Mk9 is to retire, with all Lynx’s to be replaced by its successor: the AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat, dubbed AH1 in Army Air Corps service.

Six Lynx AH7 helicopters form a '7' in the sky. (image © Chris Globe)
Six Lynx Mk7 helicopters form a ‘7’ in the sky. (image © Chris Globe)

The Wildcat is a further development of the Lynx, desinged not only for the ground support role, but for utility and maritime tasks as well. The Republic of Korea Navy has ordered eight of the ASW version, while the United Kingdom ordered 34 Wildcats for the Army Air Corps and 28 for the Fleet Air Arm.

The Wildcat AH1 is able to accommodate 7 passengers, including a door gunner, plus a crew of 2. It has a maximum speed of 157 knots (181 mph / 291 km/h) and a range of 420 nautical miles (777 km). When equipped with auxiliary fuel tanks it can remain airborne for 4.5 hours. Its standard armament includes forward firing machine guns and rockets, a pintle-mounted machine gun in the door plus up to 20 Thales Martlet missiles. The naval HMA2 version can carry up to 4 MBDA Sea Venom anti-surface weapon as well as torpedoes and depth charges.

The AW159 Wildcat in Army Air Corps configuration (Image © AgustaWestland)
The AW159 Wildcat in Army Air Corps configuration (Image © AgustaWestland)

Since August 2014 Wildcat AH1s fly already with 652 Squadron of the Army Air Corps. The Royal Navy’s Wildcat HMA2 went on its first operational cruise onboard Type 23 frigate F229 HMS Lancaster in March 2015, with the Fleet Air Arm flying the HMA2 version with 825 Naval Air Squadron and the AH1 attack version in support of the Royal Marines with 847 NAS.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger, including source information provided by the UK Ministry of Defence
Featured image: Westland Lynx AH7 during a display at the Red Bull Air Race London 2007 (Image (CC) Tony Hisgett)

Opinion: “Rafale deal opens Egypt up to Airbus Helicopters”

The purchase of 24 French-made Dassault Rafale fighter by Egypt opens up possibilities for a sale of Airbus Helicopters to the North African country. As the Rafale deal includes the transfer of French Navy multi-purpose FREMM frigate D651 Normandie, it might be an excellent opportunity for the Egyptian Air Force to renew its aging Westland Seaking maritime helicopter fleet. With the current warm relationship between Cairo and Paris, Aérospatiale designs managed by Airbus Helicopters can be on the front-row of negotiations.

The French Navy is not really amused by its government’s decision to quickly transfer one of its eight planned FREMM frigates, produced by DCNS, less than half a year after it was commissioned at its homeport of Brest. Only one other vessels of the class is in service: D650 Aquitaine. Normandie was still very much in its trail period, like its newest sister D652 Provence. The Normandie crew will now move to the Provence. The vessel will be re-located from planned homebase of Toulon to Brest “to ensure French Navy’s anti-submarine warfare capabilities on the Atlantic Coast as originally planned”, according to a French Navy statement.

New French Navy frigate D651 Normandie will be transferred to the Egyptian Navy even before its trial period has ended (Image © Marine Nationale)
New French Navy frigate D651 Normandie will be transferred to the Egyptian Navy even before its trial period has ended (Image © Marine Nationale)

The Provence’s crew will move to the upcoming fourth vessel of the class, D653 Languedoc, which has been launched 12 July 2014 with planned commissioning in 2016. The retirement plan for the older FASM frigates Montcalm and Jean de Vienne has been delayed until 2017 and 2018.

Air assets
France plans to operate the NHIndustries NH90NFHs from the FREMM frigates, which have hangar space for one helicopter, but is unlikely that Egypt will opt for that machine. The Egyptian Navy doesn’t have any air assets itself, but the Egyptian Air Force holds 10 Kaman SH-2G Super Seasprites and 5 Westland Sea King helicopters available for shipborne tasks, besides 9 Aérospatiale Gazelles for coastal reconnaissance. For a possible replacement the AS565 MBe Panther anti-submarine warfare (ASW) that Airbus Helicopters is selling to Indonesia looks to be an interesting option.

The AS565 MBe Panther anti-submarine warfare version (Image © Anthony Pecchi / Airbus Helicopters)
The AS565 MBe Panther anti-submarine warfare version (Image © Anthony Pecchi / Airbus Helicopters)

Seasprites
However, the cheapest solution for the Egyptian Air Force and Navy would be to commission one of the three Seasprites that are held in reserve. But the FREMM frigate purchase might just mean a break for the Egyptian military to replace the Sea Kings, giving Airbus Helicopters new possibilities.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger

Apart from the ASW version the Egyptian Air Force also operates 23 Commando (assault) versions of the Westland Sea King. Seen here on 16 June 1980 (Image © US Department of Defense)
Apart from the ASW version the Egyptian Air Force also operates 23 Commando (assault) versions of the Westland Sea King. Seen here on 16 June 1980 (Image © US Department of Defense)

Final bye bye to Norwegian Coast Guard Lynx

The Royal Norwegian Air Force Westland Lynx flew its final operational assignment for the Norwegian Coast Guard (Kystvakten) on Sunday 8 December 2014. It included the final deck landing of the type in Norwegian service, on board Coast Guard vessel (KV) Svalbard off the coast of Sortland, ending a 30+ year career for the Lynx in military service in Scandinavia.

Now that Norway is slowly introducing the new NHIndustries NH90 into service, the days of the Lynx are over. Machine 207 that made the last operational flight later landed at the Aviation Museum of Bodø after clocking 9160 flight hours while serving the RNoAF and Coast Guard, setting the record of all RNoAF Lynx choppers and flying 2000 hours more than it was designed to do.

The first Norwegian Westland Lynx was airborne on 23 January 1981, at the factory plant. The first touchdown on Norwegian ground was on 3 September of the same year, in Florø. Lynx 337 Squadron became fully operational for shipborne Coast Guard duties on 1 May 1983.

Source: Forsvaret

See also our Overview: Royal Norwegian Air Force

The final operational landing of a Norwegian Lynx (Image © Mats Grimsæth / Forsvarets Mediesenter)
The final operational landing of a Norwegian Lynx (Image © Mats Grimsæth / Forsvarets Mediesenter)
The final operational landing of a Norwegian Lynx (Image © Mats Grimsæth / Forsvarets Mediesenter)
The final operational landing of a Norwegian Lynx (Image © Mats Grimsæth / Forsvarets Mediesenter)
The final operational landing of a Norwegian Lynx (Image © Mats Grimsæth / Forsvarets Mediesenter)
The final operational landing of a Norwegian Lynx (Image © Mats Grimsæth / Forsvarets Mediesenter)
The final operational landing of a Norwegian Lynx (Image © Mats Grimsæth / Forsvarets Mediesenter)
The final operational landing of a Norwegian Lynx (Image © Mats Grimsæth / Forsvarets Mediesenter)
Final take-off from Bardufoss for Lynx no. 228 on 9 December 2014 (Image © Mats Grimsæth / Forsvarets Mediesenter)
Final take-off from Bardufoss for Lynx no. 228 on 9 December 2014 (Image © Mats Grimsæth / Forsvarets Mediesenter)

French Navy Lynx maintenance in the UK

Structural maintenance and technical support for the French Navy’s Lynx Mk.4 helicopter fleet,will be carried out by the UK based Vector Aerospace company for the next 5 years. The company’s Fleetlands facility in Gosport, Hampshire, has the only main build/repair jig for this aircraft type in the world. The contract was announced on Thursday 20 November.

The first helicopter should arrive as soon as December 2014. Vector Aerospace will also support maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) operations through technical visits to the Lynx bases in France.

The work follows a previously contracted deep repair task on a single French Navy Lynx carried out in 2013. Vector Aerospace completed the program within the space of only five months. The French apparently took notice.

Source: Vector Aerospace

A French Marine Nationale Lynx. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A French Marine Nationale Lynx. (Image © Elmer van Hest)